A brief overview for Sunday school teachers and Bible Study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of John 13:31-14:6, with the title, “I Will Come Again,” scheduled for Sunday, March 19, 2023.
A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
SAMPLE INTRO: ??? What do you think of this quote???
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “Some people are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good.”
(His point is, Christians should not be so focused on the afterlife that they neglect the needs of their neighbors and others.
However, C.S. Lewis argues it is precisely those who think about heaven deeply who were prepared to do the most in this world:
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.” (Mere Christianity)
Then I’d say: today we are going to look at Jesus’ promise of heaven for His followers, which gives us comfort in our times of present distress, and strength to serve the Lord in this life.
Let me just say: there is SO much in this passage, there is no way to spend in-depth time on all of it. You may want to consider just focusing on a segment of it, and/or extending it a week or two (although which of the next weeks’ lessons to omit is also tough!) But I’ll give you an overview of some things I hope will be helpful to you as you work on this week’s passage, and especially some stories which might help you illustrate and apply some of these familiar verses.
In the 2nd half of John, Jesus is heading to the cross. Here in John 13-14 He’s “breaking the news” to His disciples that He is going to be leaving them, and begins in this passage preparing them for His departure, with words of instruction and comfort.
I. The New Commandment (:34-35)
II. The Present Trouble (:36-38-14:1)
III. The Promise of Heaven (14:2-3)
IV. The Only Way To Heaven (14:4-6)
I. The New Commandment
I might begin this section by asking: ??? What are some “little giveaways” that someone you see might be a Christian person???
(Carrying a Bible; see them praying over a meal; dress modestly;
You/your group can think of many others in your experience.)
Then I’d read/have someone read :34-35 and ask:
??? What does JESUS say the giveaway sign of His disciples should be??? (LOVE!)
It’s a powerful witness to the world when God’s people really live this out, and make love for one another the most important thing.
About 125 A.D., the Roman emperor Hadrian sent a messenger, Aristides, to spy out these new “Christians” to see if they were a threat to his empire. What were they like? Here’s what Aristides wrote back to him:
— He said, they give to each other when they have needs
— they take care of their widows and orphans
— they even invite slaves to become a part of their group, and when they do, they call them “brothers” without distinction!
— when one of their poor passes away, they take care of his burial for him
— And in summary he said, “THEY LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”
THE identifying mark that Aristides reported to Hadrian was: “They love one another” — exactly what Jesus said would mark His followers!
You might ask if anyone present is a lover of math or science, then tell this story:
Dr. Richard Feynman was one of the most brilliant physicists in the 20th century. Among other things, he worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during World War II. Feynman taught at Cal Tech for much of his life, and he had a student who was just enamored with Feynman’s teaching on physics, so much so that he would go home and tell his mother all the marvels of physics he was learning at school, but she just wasn’t interested. Her son invited her to come up to school and listen to Dr. Feynman, because he thought surely then she would fall in love with physics like he had. But it was all to no avail; she didn’t care. Finally, he went to Dr. Feynman, and he asked him: wouldn’t you please write a letter to my mother, and tell her how important it is for her to learn physics? Feynman said yes, I’ll write your mother a note, and he did. He gave it to this student, but when he opened it, to his dismay the letter read: “Dear Mrs. Chown; please ignore your son’s attempts to teach you physics. Physics is not the most important thing. Love is.”
I Cor. 13 = ‘Now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” When we get to the end of our days, we will realize we’ve had so many misplaced priorities, and will only wish we had loved God and His people more.
During the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, several years ago a Baptist couple was trapped in their local Wal-Mart with scores of others, waiting for the tornado to hit at any minute. They could hear the storm closing in on them. Everyone in the store got down and covered their heads with their hands. The wife suggested to her husband that they move up about 4 feet to another spot. That little change of location saved their lives. The place from which they had moved ended up being covered with rubble, but the couple survived. They were both Christians, and they had been ready to meet the Lord; they had been praying the whole time the storm was moving over them. But the wife later testified: “Even as I was waiting for the Lord to take me home, all I could think about was how I wished I had loved people more. I wished I had done more for them. And I do love people. But after this I will show them even more love.”
??? What are some things we as Christians/church members often make more important than love?
(Money/success; our own way; minor doctrinal points; ETC.)
I hope one or more of these will help you share the importance of Jesus’ command to love with your group. The Bible really does shows us that it is the most important thing — more important than a lot of other things we put ahead of it!
II. The Present Trouble
In :36 and following, we see some of the “present troubles” that Jesus’ disciples faced:
— Jesus was leaving them (:36, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now …”
— :36 He told Peter that he was going to deny Him three times!
— Then in 14:1 Jesus says “Let not your heart be troubled” — so this shows us that their hearts WERE troubled.
We all have “present troubles” and disappointments
You might ask your group??? What are some present troubles and disappointments for YOU???
(Share what’s on your heart: personal problems and stresses, family problems, illness, loss of loved ones, financial problems, church problems and disappointments, national and world crises, etc.)
And I’d just say: just like Jesus’ disciples, we today have present troubles too. But NOW: let’s look at how Jesus comforted them:
III. The Promise of Heaven
It’s significant that Jesus comforted His disciples in their present troubles, by pointing them to heaven: After saying “Do not let your heart be troubled” He then pointed them to heaven in :2, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places … for I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus comforted them with the promise of heaven.
That is not “escapism;” it is not “pie in the sky.” We need to look to heaven to be encouraged when we get discouraged in this world.
??? Haven’t you ever been comforted in a difficult time, by the promise of something coming up?
(For example: you have a hard week at work; all kinds of stresses and problems — but that’s ok, because next week you’re going to Disney World with your family or grandkids; or next week you’re going to the lake, or whatever. And the hope and promise of that future thing, helps you get through the difficult time now.
Verse 3 tells us the great thing about heaven: “that where I am, there YOU may be also.” The BEST thing about heaven is that Jesus is there. The God whom we were made to adore and be satisfied by His presence, will be there. Most of us don’t understand that.
When our son David was about 4 years old or so, I took him with me on a week at Falls Creek, the Oklahoma youth summer camp. We had the best time, walking the trails, watching the softball games, going to the concession stand and getting snacks. At one point, David & I had just come from watching our church team play softball; and we were standing on a bridge, looking into a stream; he was sipping on an orange pop. And he looked up to me and said: “Dad, is this heaven?” I laughed! I guess to a little kid, that must have seemed like heaven. But I told him, No, this is not heaven. Heaven is going to be greater than this.
A little child may think it’s heaven because it has games and cokes; but some adults are not that more advanced in our thinking: that heaven will have the best horses, or golf course, or whatever. But the Bible tells us that it is the presence of GOD that makes heaven, heaven. We were created to have joy and pleasure in His presence, like Psalm 16:11 says; “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” We don’t know what all it will be; but we know it have pleasure, glory, and joy beyond anything we know here. And it will be because the Lord is there. “Where I am, there you may be also.
Jesus says THIS is where you should look for your comfort. Look to the reality of heaven, and all that awaits you there.
If you don’t use the Oliver Wendell Holmes and C.S. Lewis quotes in the introduction, I would use them here: and emphasize what Lewis says, that it is precisely those who focus most on heaven who do the most good here. Focusing on heaven gives us both comfort to endure, and strength to serve the Lord, here in this life. We don’t need to focus on heaven less; we need to focus on it more.
That is what the Book of Revelation is all about: things are bad; and going to get worse — but look to heaven! Look at what’s coming, and be faithful to worship and serve to the end!
So there’s a great promise of heaven, but we need to be sure and see:
IV. The Only Way To Heaven
In :4 Jesus says “you know the way where I am going.”
Thomas says in :5 we do NOT know the way; how do we know the way.
And then Jesus says that famous :6: “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
??? I would just ask my class??? “How many ways to heaven did Jesus say there were?”
(Of course the answer is just ONE!
I teach this truth a lot, because we NEED it a lot. The whole current of society goes against the Biblical teaching that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
But it IS a Biblical teaching. SOME of the verses that teach it include:
- John 14:6, here …
- Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
- I John 5:12 “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
SOME ILLUSTRATIONS you might use on this point:
A few years back, a pastor preached on how Jesus was the only way to heaven. The next day, a woman who attended that service saw him in the Post Office in town. She said, Pastor, I disagree with you that Jesus is the only way to heaven. She said it’s just today; you and I both came to the Post Office, but we came here on different routes, different streets. The pastor said: “There’s only one problem with that: when I die, I don’t want to go to the Post Office!”
Yes, there may indeed be more than one way to your Post Office, but the Bible makes it clear that there is only one way to heaven.
Every so often some of our deacons and other men and I play golf at the Municipal Golf Course in Freeport, south of where we live in Angleton, TX. To get there you get off of Highway 36 in Freeport, and you have to turn on Slaughter road, past an old Baptist Church. If you want to go to that golf course, you HAVE to take that road. There is no way to go!
One of our deacons told me that he heard the pastor of that church once say, there is ONE road to this church; if you want to get there, you have to take this road. There’s just no other way. Now, when he said that, he was not being “exclusive;” or “bigoted,” or “narrow-minded;” it’s just a physical fact: THERE IS ONLY ONE ROAD to get to that church (or to the golf course just past it).
(You can use that story – or use another local example for you that is similar to it.)
And then share that what we need to understand is that the same thing is true in the spiritual realm. When we say there is only one true God, and that Jesus is the only way to God, we aren’t being “exclusive” or “bigoted” or “narrow-minded,” we are only describing a spiritual FACT. There is in truth only one God. All of us have sinned against that God. And as the Garden of Gethsemane showed us, there was only ONE possible way God could save us: through the death of Jesus on the cross. The fact is that Jesus was the only Perfect Person who ever lived; He was the only One who ever died for our sins; and He is the only One who ever rose again, attested to by over 500 witnesses! Romans 1 says “He was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” No one else ever did all that. It’s just a fact. This is why we must believe in HIM in order to be saved; and it’s what we have to share with others so that THEY can be saved too.
??? What are some other areas of life you can think of, in which there is only one answer???
(Some answers might include: mathematics: 2+2 =4 and nothing else; that humans must have oxygen to breathe/live. AND SO ON. You/your group can think of others. There are many areas of life in which we recognize that there is only one way; only one answer.
There is an awful lot to cover in this passage this week, but I would do my best to make sure I covered this point. Your class members need to know for themselves that Jesus is the only way to God; make sure any person who might not be saved, gets the Gospel message this Sunday. Pray that someone may hear it and be saved this week!
AND I guarantee you, that even your members ARE saved, they still need this message, because they are getting bombarded by the media and cultural onslaught that says there are many ways to heaven, and that you are a bigot if you think that Jesus is the only way. Your people need to be encouraged and reinforced in this vital truth from God’s word. I pray that God will help you do that with this passage, this Sunday!
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Thanks for your help Shawn.
Thank you so much for providing these wonderful suggestions and sharing your insights to the Sunday School lesson. I just discovered this site by accident but I certainly plan to check it out every week. Thanks especially for the stories you use to illustrate the points. Jesus was the greatest teacher and he used stories to drive his points home. Thanks so much!
Thanks for your insight here. I will be leading this lesson with my group this Sunday at FBC Sevierville, TN.
Thank you so much for your insights on this week’s lesson! I am really excited about teaching and about hearing the thoughts of the class members. Our classroom continues to be almost full each Sunday, and participation continues to grow.
Our church called a pastor last Sunday. That is an answer to prayer, and we look forward to serving the Lord under his leadership.
I am so grateful to hear of the answered prayer of your new pastor! Amen! And I’m grateful that the Lord is blessing your class. I’m praying for you and your group this morning!
Thank you for helping us prepare our lesson with good comments and stories. Please pray for me and my adult ladies class at Bellefounte Baptist Church, Cleveland, TN.
So glad I found you. your illustrations willreally add to my lesson Thank you for this. Jim, Lebanon TN.
I am a new assist SS teacher. Thank you so much for helping me prepare the Sunday school lesson for the senior ladies at my church.
Judy from Providence, NC
Thank you for insight in to scripture, illustrations, and ways to make scripture relevant to today.
Thank you so much Brother, for your faithful teaching and helping us prepare to teach the Word of God. You are truly sharing Holy Spirit insight and wisdom by your video summaries. May the Lord continue to Bless you and yours in every way.
Please pray for us as I will be leading SS at FBC DeRidder, LA tomorrow.
Loved your explanations and examples. Great quides to enhance the lesson